Now, more than ever, Morrissey is an artist who inspires superlatives. So it's no surprise really that "World Peace Is None of Your Business" (Harvest), his first album in five years, shows him at his best and worst.

"Staircase at the University" conjures up memories of his early solo days, shortly after he left The Smiths, when he was fascinated with creating a disconnect between his music and his lyrics. Here, the music is the sunniest it has been in years, an upbeat, almost danceable, mix of horns, swirling synths and hand claps crowned with a flamenco guitar outro that sounds nearly giddy. So, of course, it tells the dark tale of a stressed-out university student, hounded to get good grades, who commits suicide. "She threw herself down and her head split three ways," Moz sings sweetly.

"Staircase" is so good that it's almost maddening to slog through much of the album, with its intentionally off-putting noise-rock touches, plodding arrangements and mean little stories. In "Kick the Bride Down the Aisle," he compares the bride to a greedy cow, wanting to get married "so that she can laze and graze for the rest of her days." In the midst of exactingly worded, tongue-twisting lines, he drops the ditsy "Kiss Me a Lot," with a chorus of "Kiss me all over my face."

The clever title track of "World Peace Is None of Your Business" is meant to provoke an investigation into the political process. Unfortunately, too often, Morrissey simply wants to provoke, which ends up feeling hollow and pointless.


"World Peace Is None of Your Business"

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BOTTOM LINE Bold, brash and unconcerned whether anyone else thinks it's good.